For anyone who paints today, it is hard to believe there was ever a time when the beautiful, versatile, and stable Prussian Blue pigment did not exist. But the fact is it is just a few hundred years old.
It was discovered, by accident, in the first decade of the 1700s in Berlin by a colour-maker called Diesbach. Prior to that time, blue pigments had been sourced from “indigo, smalt, azurite and ultramarine, derived from lapis lazuli, which was expensive.” The new process was cheap and easily manufactured. Its first verifiable use in an artwork was in “The Entombment of Christ” by Pieter vander Werff in 1709.
I didn’t know any of this until I read a fascinating article called “Prussian Blue and Its Partner In Crime” by Philip McCouat in the excellent Journal of Art In Society. The article goes on to describe the pigment’s use in Europran art and, notably, in the creation of an entire genre of Japanese painting.
The second part of McCouat’s article (“…Partner in Crime”) takes the story into even more interesting ground once a Swedish chemist discovered that by mixing Prussian Blue with diluted sulphuric acid he could create the deadly poison hydrogen cyanide, a favourite of poisoners ever since. This section of the essay details the first murderer caught by telegraph, and the use of cyanide and its derivatives both by US gas chambers and by Nazi mass executioners.
Who knew that such a beautiful colour could have such a blotchy history? Mix up your favourite beverage, settle back, and enjoy this fascinating long read.
We have yet another development application on Commercial. This one involves the last house existing on the Drive between Venables and Broadway. The development doesn’t come as any surprise as the building was sold a year or so ago with flipping and/or redevelopment in mind.
Not only is this the last house on the Drive, it is also one of the oldest (though much changed), having been first built in 1904. In what is today the front yard that faces onto Commercial, there used to be a small storefront, first used as a florist shop, but that disappeared soon after. The house was purchased in the 1950s by Mrs. Ann Squires and, since that time, has generally been a cheap and cheerful rooming house, and rather run-down.
According to the Development Application sign, it is to be replaced by a mixed use building, with retail on the ground floor and rental apartments above. Personally I have no issue with the development especially as it states quite clearly that it will meet the current zoning requirements. I have also been pushing for a long time for more low-rise rental to be built in Grandview, and this seems to fit the bill.
Unfortunately, there is an unwelcome sloppiness about the project so far: the illustration on the notice board shows four storeys, while the text states five storeys. It would be good to have that confusion cleared up. The notice board also says that more information is available from the City of Vancouver site, but this property is not listed in the City’s current development data.
Finally, it is worth pointing out that the developer/builder clearly expects to make a reasonable profit on this venture — and good for them. It gives the lie to other developers — Boffo Properties, for example — who claim they cannot make a financial go of low-rise rental properties; and it strengthens the position of many locals who feel that a low-rise alternative is possible for the ugly and intrusive Boffo Tower planned for Commercial & Venables.